MADRID (Reuters) – Villarreal stayed hard on the heels of the La Liga leaders when Congo forward Cedric Bakambu hit a double to secure a 2-0 victory at home to promoted Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
Bakambu opened the scoring in the 26th minute at the Madrigal when he tapped in Roberto Soldado’s pass and doubled the home side’s lead six minutes into the second half with a curling effort that went in off a post.
Villarreal have 39 points in fourth at the halfway stage of the campaign, which would be good enough for a berth in Champions League qualifying.
Coached by Marcelino Garcia, they are through to the last 32 of this season’s Europa League and play their first leg at home to Italian side Napoli on Feb. 18.
In La Liga, Villarreal are a point behind third-placed Real Madrid, who thrashed Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 at the Bernabeu on Saturday in Zinedine Zidane’s debut as coach.
Spanish and European champions Barcelona, 4-0 winners at home to Granada on Saturday, are a point clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who can recapture top spot with a win at Celta Vigo later on Sunday.
Celta are eight points adrift of Villarreal in fifth.
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Clare Fallon)